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Video Spotlight: Design Student Updates Ancient Instrument

Video Spotlight: Design Student Updates Ancient Instrument

Posted: June 20, 2016

Visual artist, musician, and wood/furniture major Matthew Burch is passionate about pushing creative boundaries. Hailing from North Java, NY, Burch started out working in painting and drawing, but has turned his focus to wood-, fabric-, and metal-design.

Recently, Burch saw an opportunity to modernize an ancient musical instrument—the guzheng. One of China’s oldest stringed instruments, the guzheng produces delicate, high-pitched, acoustic tones when plucked.

In a video profile produced by communication design alumna Haley Willis, ’16, Burch details traveling to Asia to gain a deeper understanding of the instrument.

"My idea was to go to China and learn how to build these things,” Burch said. “To learn the manufacturing process and talk to a few guzheng masters, people who know the instrument inside and out and can play it proficiently.”

Burch visited China for a month during the summer of 2015 and used what he learned as the basis for an undergraduate research project.

Working with faculty mentor Richard Ross, associate professor of design, and with guidance from Steve Macho, associate professor of career and technical education, Burch was able to build an electric guzheng by adding electronic pickups to amplify the instrument’s sound.

Find additional examples of Burch's work and his artist statement on his Facebook page.  

Pictured: Burch plays his electric guzheng at this year’s Student Research and Creativity Celebration, April 2016.

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